Nigerian state governments have been urged to make Zinc and Low-osmolarity (Lo-ORS) drugs available in public health facilities in Nigeria.
Zinc tablets and ORS are drugs used for the treatment of diarrhea in infants and children.
The advice was given on Thursday in Abuja by Global Affairs Canada, (GAC), the group which in 2014 launched the Clinton Access Health Initiative (CHAI) to provide access to the drugs in Nigeria.
The project, which will end this July, focuses on eight states, including Bauchi, Cross River, Kaduna, Katsina, Niger, Kano, Lagos and Rivers.
In 2012, diarrhea was one of the top three killers of children under the age of five years in Nigeria, causing approximately 100,000 deaths each year.
The World Health Organization recommended the use of low-osmolarity (Lo-ORS) to treat the disease in infants and under five children.
But due to the cost of the drugs, only one percent of children suffering from diarrhea had access to it, while other children continued to receive suboptimal products like antibiotics and antidiarrheals and some received nothing at all.
Speaking at the National Primary Health Care Development Agency bi-annual Project Committee Meeting, a representative of GAC, Linda Erhlich said CHAI has helped to reduce deaths from diarrhea.
“The project has helped to increase the demand in Zinc ORS treatment, the accessibility and at the end of the day, this is a life saving intervention,” she said.
“Data recovered from five of these states shows that Zinc ORS combined treatment has increased from one percent to 31 percent and that is very commendable.”
Ms. Ehrlich urged state governments to ensure that the commitment of the project is maintained and moved forward.
“We are particularly interested in the state level discussion on how to mobilize investment towards sustainable procurement.
“For example, unavailability of Zinc ORS products in public facilities. We know this is dependent on state governments attitude to release funds
“It is therefore important to note that the commitments from state level is vital for sustainability of results from this projects,” she said.
Despite stating an end to the project, Ms. Erhlich pledged the continuous support of Canada to ensure that Nigerians have access to good health services.
“As the project comes to an end, we are very pleased with the significant gain made from this initiative.
“We will continue to support the health system in Nigeria, to reduce the burden of diseases on mother and child,” she said.
While responding to questions from journalists, the Director , Department of Primary Health Care System Development, Oladimeji Olayinka, noted that access to drugs in the past was very low, saying it was the reason why most children could not use the drugs.
He however said that more children now use ORS and ZInc tablets because these drugs are now produced by Nigeria Pharmaceuticals company, making it less expensive.
In his remarks, the Deputy country Director, Clinton Access Health Initiative (CHAI), Ahmad Abdulwahab, said that the project has covered more children living with diarrhea.
“When this programme started, we have only one percent of children using Zinc for the treatment of diarrhea but now, we have over 30 percent increase in the number of children using Zinc in the selected states.”
This, he said, has contributed to a remarkable decrease in the number of deaths from diarrhea.
In his speech, the Executive Secretary of NPHCDA, Faisal Shuaib,thanked the Canadians for their goodwill.
Mr. Shuaib, who was represented at the meeting by Director of Admin and Human Resources, NPHCDA, Aisha Abubakar, said the cardinal goals of the agency still remains the eradication of polio, the consolidation of Routine Immunization and the revitalisation of primary health care centres.
In his remarks, the Director Public Health, representing Kaduna state, Addo Mohammed, acknowledged that the programme has helped to reduce deaths of infants and under age children from diarrhea in the state.
“We are making more progress in the fight against diarrhea. We have started showing evidence of sustainability with the state taking the entire intervention by its own.
“We are here to report the achievements made so far and to convince CHAI and its founders that we can continue with the interventions,” he said.